Kiefer’s Music Mondays: Cory Branan’s ‘The No-Hit Wonder’

It’s a wonder this alt-country LP wasn’t more of a hit!

Steeped in irony, Cory Branan’s fourth album, The No-Hit Wonder—released 5 years ago this week—turns out to be an entire ironic experience of its own, containing an onslaught of hit-worthy jams.

The eclectic Mississippi-raised singer-songwriter brings a lot to the table in terms of conglomeration. A fourth generation musician, Branan grew up with a large gospel influence, before playing heavy metal and eventually coming into his own with a geographically appropriate blend of folk, Americana and alternative country, with a pleasant dose of rock. So when he recorded this LP in Nashville for Chicago’s Bloodshot Records, a lot of that diversity convened to create his best sounding record to date.

Produced by Paul Ebersold, between his 2012 album Mutt (which featured brilliant songwriting against low-level mixing) and his 2017 follow-up Adios (which might be accused of being a bit overproduced), 2014’s The No-Hit Wonder walks the tightest of ropes, being simultaneously true to its roots and progressive.

The verbosity of his songwriting is where Cory Branan really stands out. His blend of regional colloquialisms and every-day terms with thesaurus-grade synonyms multiplies No-Hit Wonder’s level of interest exponentially. Single “You Make Me” has really unique phrasing that accentuates the rhyme scheme while emphasizing the individual lines themselves. “C’mon Shadow” is a super pleasant song that displays some macabre while also exuding sincerity.

Conversely, “All I Got And Gone” is an homage to Branan’s deceased father. The jangly “Sour Mash” is almost certainly an allusion to the dry county of Moore, Tennessee where Lynchburg is located. My favorite track is “Meantime Blues,” which showcases his lyrical prowess while easily enjoyable for its wonderful simplicity.

The album’s guests are also a great addition to the recording. Jason Isbell, Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), stand-up bassist Joe Fick (The Dempseys), and folk singer Caitlin Rose are just some of the diverse artists featured accross the record.

Recorded in just three days, the many facets of this album fit together marvelously. It shines in its subtlety and a level of self-awareness that nurtures its pleasantness. Contrary to the title, Cory Branan’s The No-Hit Wonder is as much a wonder as it is a hit for anyone who hears it.

Listen to: “Meantime Blues,” “You Make Me,” “C’mon Shadow”